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Air, land and water pollution cause an estimated 9 million deaths per year, 95 percent of which occur in low and middle income countries (Global Alliance on Health and Pollution, 2014). Further, it is estimated that premature mortality associated with air pollution costs US$225 billion in lost labor income or more than US$5 trillion in welfare losses worldwide in 2013 (World Bank and IHME, 2016).

The World Bank is committed to providing support to countries most severely impacted by pollution by providing technical assistance on pollution management, facilitating knowledge generation and sharing, and raising awareness about the detrimental impact on global health.

Between 2009 and 2016, World Bank commitments (IBRD/IDA) to pollution management and environmental health totaled approximately US$6.5 billion, with results including air pollution reduction in Mongolia, safe disposal of persistent organic pollutants in five countries in Africa and easing pollution in China’s rivers. This work is in part supported by the Pollution Management and Environmental Health (PMEH) program within the World Bank’s Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice.

Solutions to pollution offer no-regrets options to boost economic development (through for example, increased tourism, improved transport, better energy efficiency, and increased overall productivity), mitigate climate change (short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon contribute equally to air quality and global warming) and address the vital demands of millions of people for healthier and more productive lives.

Pollution management and environmental health are important issues for both urban and rural development. Building inclusive and resilient cities requires the provision of pollution management infrastructure and services, like solid waste collection and air quality management, for rapidly growing urban populations. Sustainable rural development requires strong regulatory frameworks to reduce exposure to hazardous waste materials, like mining and e-wastes, and effective systems to minimize health hazards of pesticide and fertilizer, especially as agricultural production increases and intensifies.

The World Bank’s simultaneous approach to urban and rural environmental health provides a powerful platform to develop effective solutions to pollution management. Urban and rural residents may appear to face different environmental health risks; however, evidence demonstrates that both environments are systematically linked.

Ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity underlie PMEH’s mission to improve global health outcomes, especially for the poor, through reduction of pollution.

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